By Adam Baum, Cincinnati Enquirer
GREEN TWP. - After years of coming up just short in the Greater Miami Conference race, Oak Hills' girls soccer team stands alone at the top of the GMC for the second year in a row.
The Highlanders scored with roughly 90 seconds to play in a 1-0 win over Hamilton Oct. 6 to clinch the league title outright. Senior Mikayla Jung, an Akron commit, found senior Paige Knorr, an Ohio commit, for the game winner.
"Mikayla had the ball ... played a nice through ball to Paige who got a touch with the defender on her hip and she hit the far post on the ground with I think 1:36 left," said first-year coach Kevin Spraul. "It was incredible ... winning eight games in the GMC - to win the GMC, it's a grind each game. We've had a lot of 1-0 games ... the fact that these kids stuck it out and kept fighting, they found a way to win.
"Before the season one of their goals was to be back-to-back GMC champions. No better feeling as a coach than to see them jumping up and down with joy after the final whistle."
Jung said, "I got it from our outside back, turned and Paige was making this run through the defenders ... as she was getting ready to shoot I had tears coming down my face. It was pretty much the best feeling ever."
The Highlanders are a confident group, and with 11 straight wins (as of Oct. 7) their swagger has only amplified.
"I think it was always there," said Knorr, who leads the GMC in points (37) on 16 goals and five assists, of the team's confidence.
Confidence is only part of the picture. Oak Hills plays a complete and balanced brand of soccer.
"I feel like the team's really close and it just helps on the field," said senior Haley Cox, who's committed to St. Louis. "We know each other well; we have great chemistry this year.
"What stands out to me is we actually work as a team."
And, with several new contributors after a hard graduation in the spring, they've learned to play together on the fly.
"You would believe that they have been on the same team for the past five years together, when in reality only a select handful have actually played together aside from this year," said Spraul. "The team is extremely balanced and team-oriented. Not only can we score 3-4 goals a game in a hurry, the team also makes it very difficult for our opponents to create opportunities and put the ball in the back of the net. We have a lot of depth and playmakers."
Oak Hills (12-1-0, 8-0) has allowed five goals all season, and they've haven't surrendered multiple goals in the same game.
"Coming into the season," Spraul said, "we knew that we were going to be able to score lots of goals with players such as Knorr, Jung, Cox and (Haley) Miller returning from last year's team. However, it's also been the new players who have stepped up like veterans ... first-year varsity players such as freshman Emily Tirey, sophomore Sarah Reddington and junior Hannah Bacon have all played like experienced seniors in the back alongside varsity returner Bri Lunsford."
Senior goalkeepers Annie Smith and Sam Royer have been stingy in net as well. Smith leads the GMC in save percentage (90) and is second in shutouts (7.5).
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